My obsession with photography is almost equalled by my obsession with birds, especially raptors. The California Foundation for Birds of Prey, an organization for which I volunteer, has provided me with many photographic opportunities and today was one of those days. It was my first time participating as a member of a creance team. “Creance,” in raptor rehabilitation, was adapted and modified from the sport of falconry. Straps called jesses are attached to a bird’s lower legs and a creance, or line, is attached to the straps. The line is used to control the raptor while it flies and exercises its flight muscles. The bird flies, tethered to the line, in a large, unobstructed, open space.
Today, we spent an hour exercising a young, red-tailed hawk recovering from wing injuries. I helped to attach and detach jesses, recorded the outcomes of flights, handled the hawk including retrieving it after its flights, and operated the creance line. What an exhilarating experience. CFBP plans to release the hawk next week after three more creance sessions, in all of which I am scheduled to participate.
The training session ended on what was supposed to be the final flight. I was given responsibility to operate the creance line for the last flight, after being told that it was critical that I kept the line unhindered to ensure that the hawk wasn’t suddenly drawn up short and possibly injured. Unfortunately, the line jammed. The hawk flew twenty feet and was drawn instantly to a halt. I was horrified but was vindicated when we discovered that the line had jammed and I was not responsible for it jamming. Phew!
Of course I had my camera and took a few photos. But I was most interested in learning the creance technique so I didn’t obsess about my settings which needed some tweaking. I’m including several shots from today that I thought were interesting, including a couple of me handling the hawk.
These are some of the hawks that CFBP is currently rehabilitating. The hawk we exercised is the one in the middle.
Seconds after this shot, Dana netted the hawk so we could attach the jesses.
Creance protocol calls for examining the hawk’s feet prior to the flight to make sure they are not injured.
This is the creance team, as the hawk is released, Kari at left is operating the creance line, Dana is handling the hawk, and John is recording the outcome.
This is the hawk’s first flight today, about 100 feet. The creance line is trailing it.
Dana transfers the hawk (and the heavy leather gloves) to me. I stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and now possess my own welder’s gloves.
I am now in full control of the hawk.
Me, just after releasing the hawk. My form was a bit exuberant and I was advised to more gently release the hawk which I did more appropriately on three subsequent releases. After each release, I walked atop the creance line, now on the ground, to keep the hawk from flying further away, approached the hawk and encircled its legs to control it. Those talons are unbelievably powerful and I was really glad to have those heavy welder’s gloves on.